TV REVIEW: Arrow “My Name is Oliver Queen”
By Justin Carter
I have a broad question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: what exactly is this season of Arrow about?
Let’s start at the beginning, when it was about finding out who murdered Sara Lance. That took up something like, eight episodes before the killer turned out to be Thea. At some point, things became about protecting Malcolm Merlyn from getting offed by the League of Assassins. That took a minor backseat long enough for Barry and Oliver to hang out for a while. Once Oliver went to face off Ra’s al Ghul and that ended with him getting kicked down a mountain, the plot shifted to the rest of Team Arrow becoming heroes in their own right, Oliver getting well, and Team Arrow reluctantly working with Merlyn to train Oliver and Thea to take down Ra’s for the inevitable round two. Somewhere along the line, Oliver became Al Sah-him, got married to Nyssa, and now things are about Ra’s releasing a bio-weapon onto the people of Starling City while Oliver tries and fails to destroy the League from the inside.
Here we are at the finale this week, and I’m not entirely sure how we got to Team Arrow dying in a League prison due to the Alpha/Omega virus and Oliver on route with Ra’s to deliver to the virus onto the people of Starling. Only it turns out that Malcolm replicated the inoculate that kept Oliver, Maseo, and Tatsu alive during the Hong Kong outbreak years ago and spread it to the others, so they all end up being alive. Like Felicity says, at this point, I’ve lost track of who’s lying to who and how many double-crosses there are running around this season. Barry shows up for his mandatory appearance to get them out of League jail, since Oliver did him a solid last night with Wells (the timeline between these small-dose crossovers is nuts, same as in the comics, so golf clap for consistency). Oliver also comes out as a defector to Ra’s by crashing their plane after Ra’s jumps out with the virus in hand. And keep in mind that all of that happens in the first 10 minutes of the show.
With the whole team together back in Starling, the mission now is to find Ra’s rival Damian Darhk, who happens to be in town, and use him as leverage in order to get the virus in their hands. Like just about everything else in the past handful of episodes, the idea of Darhk comes out of nowhere and doesn’t feel like anything more than a tease for season four. They keep saying he’s the leader of the HIVE, but they don’t exactly explain what it is that this organization does besides being basically like the League. Only it turns out that Darhk bolted once he found out about Ra’s intentions somehow, so al Ghul’s plan now is to disperse the virus anyway through the contagion equivalent of four suicide bombers. Stopping the other carriers doesn’t feel as tense as it should be, given how things went down in Hong Kong; the other three are either killed or knocked out with relative speed and just feel like a half-done way to raise the stakes. Surprisingly, this is when Thea decides to show up, dressed in Arsenal’s threads. It’s too early to say how things will play out, since she’s only in action once throughout the whole episode, but I’m not opposed to the idea.
Just like last week, the flashbacks are where most of the human drama and stakes come into play. With Akio dead and Shrieve still in their hands, Oliver, Tatsu and Maseo are grieving and angry. I thought that this would lead to something to entice us with flashback possibilities for next season, but after Oliver tortures him into unconsciousness, Maseo straight up puts a bullet into Shrieve’s head. It’s actually a pretty effective moment and makes clear exactly when Maseo “died” and Sarab was born. Maseo and Tatsu may not exactly be the most compelling characters on the show, but the different ways they cope with the death of their son and how they’ve changed over the years is pretty effective and well-told. It’s actually a shame that both are written off the show now, because they could’ve found potential allies and coping buddies in the present day.
While the team deals with the carriers, Oliver and Ra’s face off for round two. The fighting is, as always, well shot and choreographed. It’s clear that Oliver’s time training under Merlyn and as Sah-him have paid off, and it feels earned when he finally puts a sword into Ra’s. Naturally, nothing can ever be 100% of a win for Oliver Queen, which is when the police snipers decide to put some bullets into him and send him toppling over the railing. Felicity takes Ray’s ATOM suit to save him, the outbreak is stopped. There’s still 15 minutes left of the show to go, so the whole thing ends up feeling a bit rushed and anticlimactic. There’s no real sense of danger to anyone on the team; for a while, I thought that Nyssa was going to end up dying, but she’s perfectly alive and well. You’d think that with her father dead, that this would lead to either Oliver handing over leadership of the League to her, which would make sense given their marriage, or her staying in Starling to train Laurel and protect the city with Team Arrow. Nope, you’d be all wrong, because it turns out that she’s back with the League and taking orders from the new Ra’s, Malcolm Merlyn. He and Oliver made some sort of deal that makes him top dog now, but I’m not entirely sure why no one put an arrow or bullet in his head when they had the chance. The guy’s made their lives hell for two years now and surely the sensible thing to do would be to keep him from causing any further trouble.
The city now saved, Oliver decides to end his time as the Arrow and start a new normal life with Felicity. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this; on one hand, it’s been made clear that Oliver is very much tired of being alone as the Arrow and loves Felicity. The rest of the team has certainly stepped up and are in a position where they can all run as a full unit without two of their founders. But at the same time, this feels like it was planned for if the show wasn’t going to get a fourth season, and everything seems to fall into line for that. Thea becoming Speedy, Diggle possibly taking up an identity of his own, Malcolm running the League–all of this feels like definitive endings, Oliver and Felicity’s especially, and Ray’s suit explosion aside, there’s nothing to even really hint at these characters returning. But since the show’s been renewed for season four, I know right away that this peaceful time with them won’t last for long because he can’t fully escape his time as the Arrow or as Old Oliver Queen.
Thus ends Arrow’s third season. Started off pretty well, did great in the middle, and then just completely lost itself by the end. There’s not enough here to declare it the worst thing on television, but it definitely doesn’t hold together as well as season two did. Maybe things will get better with season four, or maybe they’ll get worse, I’m not sure. What I do know is that I’m still not entirely positive what this season was about, and for a show about a guy with pretty damn good aim, not hitting its target perfectly is a massive problem.
- Tatsu goes back to her life of solitude, and frankly I can’t blame her. The past few years have been rough on her.
- Ray’s suit explosion is totally a “backdoor” pilot into being in Legends of Tomorrow, right? Has to be.
- Lance: “Oh, the city’s under attack? What is it, May?” Clever.
- So Damien Darhk or however you spell that aside, what can they do for season four? They can’t do the League again, because that would just feel like a retread of this year and season one.
- Season grade: C. Best episodes: “Sara,” “Brave and the Bold”, “Left Behind”, “Public Enemy”, “Broken Arrow”